Phillies

Phillies suffer turn-back-the-clock loss to Daniel Mengden, A's

Phillies suffer turn-back-the-clock loss to Daniel Mengden, A's

BOX SCORE

At the turn of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Athletics collected three World Series titles and six AL pennants behind some dominant pitching. 

The A’s were back in town on Friday night, and Daniel Mengden made it feel — and look — like 1913 again. 

Sporting a handlebar mustache and an old-school delivery, Mengden tossed a two-hitter, shutting down Rhys Hoskins and the Phillies in Oakland’s 4-0 victory in a matchup of last-place teams at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

Matt Olson — Oakland’s version of Hoskins — hit a 483-foot, two-run homer in the first inning off Mark Leiter Jr. It was the rookie’s 15th homer in his past 30 games and 19 in 51. 

Hoskins had entered as the fastest in major-league history to hit 18 homers. But his 35th game proved frustrating. He chased a pitch in the dirt for strike three in the second and fanned looking on three pitches in the fourth. He made good contact in the seventh, but grounded out sharply to second. 

Mengden was so efficient Hoskins didn’t get a fourth at-bat. 

“As well as we’ve been swinging the bats, we got stymied by that Mengden kid,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He really pitched well. He pitched backwards. He threw as many off-speed pitches as he did fastballs. I tip my cap to him. He really did a good job on us, and I’m glad I didn’t give J.P. Crawford the day off."

Crawford, making his second start at shortstop, singled in the third and sixth innings for the only offense. He never got past second base, and Aaron Altherr’s fly out to deep left in the seventh was the closest the Phillies came to scoring in their first shutout since Aug. 16 at San Diego. 

The Phillies were coming off a three-game sweep of Miami in which they scored 27 runs. But Mengden’s double-clutch windup and changing speeds messed with the Phillies’ timing. 

It was a good reminder this remains a young team that’s still experiencing things for the first time. 

“It’s a funky delivery, a funky windup,” said Andrew Knapp, who made his first start at catcher since Aug. 3. “He kind of messes with your timing with the double pump over the top. But kudos to him. He was hitting his spots and keeping us off-balance.”

Mengden (1-1) retired the first seven hitters and the final 11 in his first career complete game. He walked none and struck out seven. Not bad for a guy who was called up 10 days earlier and came in with a 7.07 ERA in three big-league starts this season. 

But nobody on the Phillies’ active roster had ever faced the 24-year-old right-hander. Blame that on an unusual September interleague series, with the A’s making their first trip to their former home since 2011. 

And it’s been many years since anybody has seen the extended windup-handlebar mustache combination on the mound. 

“He probably does it for his own comfort level,” Mackanin said. 

Mengden taps his toe and brings his glove over his head before bringing it back to eye level. Then he taps his toe and again raises his glove before delivering to the plate. But Mengden also at times went to a regular delivery. 

“A bunch of the Phillies kind of hang low and get that timing off the pitcher," Mengden said. "So we wanted to get some quick pitches in there."

Even when the Phillies figured out the delivery, they were befuddled by the pitches themselves.

“Hitters never knew what’s coming,” Mackanin said. “He pitched backwards sometimes and snuck fastballs by us. He started off with fastballs and got us out soft. It was tough for a hitter to know what was coming. He missed his spots only about eight times, which is huge.”

Matt Joyce added a second two-out, two-run homer in the third off Leiter (3-6). The right-hander settled down from there to allow four runs and seven hits over six innings with one walk while matching a career high with nine strikeouts. 

“I had pretty good command of a lot of my secondary stuff, so I was just trying to mix it up and bury the off-speed pitches when we got to two strikes,” Leiter said. 

The bullpen was flawless from there, with Zac Curtis striking out two in a hitless ninth in his Phillies debut. And Knapp was smooth behind the plate in his return from a broken hand. But the Phillies dropped their 90th game, and now must win six of their final 15 to avoid 100 losses. 

“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but the hand felt good. No problems there,” Knapp said. “it felt good getting behind the plate again.” 

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.